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“I will never allow you to become a doctor”

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan's provocative blog touched off a debate about the medical profession in India

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan’s provocative blog touched off a debate about the medical profession in India

Would you push your offspring towards a career as a doctor – or a pole dancer?

One doctor in India is clear about the future of his profession – if the current state of his country’s health system continues, he’d rather his children do anything but practice medicine. Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan laid out his arguments in a blog post that was shared thousands of times this week on Facebook and Reddit.

In the blog, Radhakrishnan cites long hours, poor pay, and the perilous state of the Indian health care system. He quotes statistics showing that India has fewer doctors per head than other large nations, and the country’s relative lack of spending on health. But some of his strongest words were saved for his discussion of an Indian Medical Association study which indicated that three-quarters of doctors have faced some form of violence while going about their duties.

“There are even instances of doctors being actually killed for following the law,” he wrote. “When was the last time you saw a software techie being killed off for not making an app properly?”

Addressing his future children (he’s not yet a father), he said: “I will let you have every choice in life and I will be there to support you and guide you along the way. You can be a wildlife photographer trekking through the Amazon or dance the poles at Las Vegas. But I will never allow you to become a doctor in India.”

The post kicked off a huge debate online. “Am gonna share this with my parents, who are slightly disappointed I didn’t become a doctor,” read one comment on Reddit. But another jumped in to defend the profession: If you’re passionate about medicine then do it. There’s nothing more rewarding than the gratitude you will receive on a day to day basis.” Some alluded to the divide between the public and private systems: “Life in private healthcare is pretty good – chill lifestyle, lots of money, great work environment.” Others, meanwhile, referenced the large numbers of doctors who leave India for jobs abroad. “This article is hyperbole at best,” one medical student commented. “I’ll probably be leaving India after graduating. But it’s not for any of the … reasons pulled out by the author of that article.”

Dr Radhakrishnan told BBC Trending that his blog achieved its aim – to prompt a larger debate about India’s health system and the role of doctors within it: “There’s been a sense of disillusionment for a while now. It comes up in conversation with my colleagues.” The doctor-patient relationship has broken down, he says, and his views are shared by senior doctors (Radhakrishnan has been practicing for a decade). “They’ve seen a huge shift in the medical situation in India, and they want their own children and grandchildren to avoid the field” he says.

But surely India needs more doctors, to alleviate some of the current stress on physicians? “I agree, my headline and the way the blog has been covered is a bit tabloidy in nature,” he says. “But the main thing is it got people talking. That’s the first step towards making a change, and if we make a change then yes, we can consider bringing our children back into the system.”

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